Finding a trusted babysitter or caregiver is a challenge that plagues many parents; but could artificial intelligence narrow the options?
One new service claims it can help parents refine their choices by digging into a potential caregiver’s social media past.
It’s called Predictim. The company’s technology claims to assess someone’s online behavior and give parents a risk score to know what kind of person they are.
Local parents we spoke with said they’re unsure of its benefits. And Predictim has experienced some criticism, to the point that it has paused its operations.
Either way, parents like Takara Page, said the job is difficult.
Page’s son Max, who is 2, is a ball of energy, so finding a sitter who can match his spirit is a challenge for his mom.
“It was really hard to find care that we felt comfortable with,” Page said.
Her search led her to an in-home day care center. Page said it was a gut feeling that got her there.
“What we were looking for was people with similar parenting styles to us, that we felt like not only was Max going to be safe and fed but also that he was going to be raised in the way that we really wanted him to, and that was a really challenging process,” Page said.
Using software apps
Predictim promises peace of mind for parents who are in Page’s position.
Using artificial intelligence algorithms, the app searches a potential care candidate’s web history and claims to identify social media content that is aggressive, abusive, explicit or offensive.
Within the past two months, however, both Facebook and Twitter have blocked the site and are investigating its use of their public data. The Predictim site itself now has a notice saying that it has put the project on hold and is focusing on “how we offer our service and making changes to address some of the suggestions we received.”
For Page, she doesn’t think social media paints the whole picture of someone’s character.
“I don’t think that I would use something like that because I know people in my life who maybe have questionable social media posts but they’re wonderful people, they are great caregivers and I would absolutely trust them with my son,” Page said.
Andrea Trantham agreed, saying that social media doesn’t show a person’s true character. She also faces a struggle when it comes to finding care for her two children.
“I don’t think I would use it,” Trantham said of the app. “I don’t think it tells you who a person is. I think a face to face would tell me better who a person is.”
Face to face and word of mouth are the ways Trantham has found sitters.
“A lot of times it is trusting your friends that have already had that babysitter, and asking them how it went,” Trantham said.
A matter of trust
That trust is what Safe Sitter Instructor Dawn Delacruz said is so important. She teaches classes for young teens through Bronson Hospital to prepare them for babysitting jobs.
“To parents, I would talk to other parents, talk to your church groups or your work groups or other people within your circle of friends that have had a reliable babysitter,” said Delacruz, who also is a registered nurse.
Safe Sitter gives young people ages 11 to 13 an advantage over other teens. And, Delacruz told Newschannel 3, classes like it and certifications in child and infant safety are important to look for on a resume from a prospective babysitter.
Delacruz said it all comes down to if they’re a good fit for your family.
“Watch, how does that student interact with your children,” Delacruz said.
Predictim has put its services for new clients on hold for now, as the company works to re-tool how it gets social media information. Predictim also faces claims of spreading dangerous and irresponsible information about people based on old social media pages. CEO Sal Parsa told CBS News the information is there for parents to make their own decisions.
That is what Page is continuing to do, even though it’s been a tough search.
“We have not found an evening babysitter or a weekend babysitter because we just haven’t found that person that we feel like we could trust and leave Max in the care of because it is scary. So we don’t really have date night or anything,” Page said.
Social media sharing
Newschannel 3 reached out to the CEO of Predictim multiple times and has not received a response.
Both Twitter and Facebook sent written statements.
A Twitter spokesperson said “Per our guidelines, we strictly prohibit the use of Twitter data and APIs for surveillance purposes, including performing background checks. When we became aware of Predictim’s services, we conducted an investigation and revoked their access to Twitter’s public APIs.”
Facebook sent this statement explaining its stance on Predictim: “People consented to sharing their information with Predictim when they granted Predictim access to their information. Regardless, it is against our policies for data to be used for eligibility determinations under Section 3.15 of our platform policy. We recently spoke with Predictim and now the app only has access to information that’s provided with Facebook Login – name, profile picture and email address. Scraping people’s information on Facebook is against our terms of service. We are investigating Predictim for violations of our terms, including to see if they are engaging in scraping.”
When it comes to narrowing the search for childcare, Care.com also recommends thorough background checks for prospective child care providers. The company also recommends trusting your gut, regardless of a background check.